NBA Free Agency 2012: Anatomy of the Houston Rockets' Bungled Offseason
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From immensely overpaying role players to going all-in to add a superstar, the Houston Rockets have made their fair share of headlines this summer.
After another failed attempt to capture an elusive playoff berth, the Houston Rockets entered the offseason with a promising, but not elite, squad. Behind big man Luis Scola and high-octane scorer Kevin Martin, the roster possessed a nice blend of prospects and established veterans.
Sure, the team was stuck in purgatory, as the organization had no chance to compete for a championship, but they were ready to vie for a postseason spot next season.
The Rockets, though, had different plans.
The anatomy of Houston's busy offseason includes four major trades orchestrated, two large signings completed, the utilization of the amnesty clause and many rumors sparked.
Simply put, nobody saw this coming.
In what appears to be yet another push to acquire a franchise-altering star, the Houston Rockets are wheeling-and-dealing with hopes to finally land their next franchise cornerstone. This team is obviously still reeling from the retirement of Yao Ming.
Nonetheless, let's examine all of the transactions and events that have transpired in Houston.
Trade with Minnesota Timberwolves (June 26, 2012)
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To start the offseason, the Houston Rockets shipped forward Chase Budinger, who struggled to find a consistent role in the rotation, to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 18th pick and the draft rights to Lior Eliyahu.
This deal showed that Houston was going to become a major suitor for a top-20 talent superstar. By adding another pick, the team was trying to create a more enticing offer to obtain an All-Star caliber player, most notable center Dwight Howard.
Even if they didn't add a star, which obviously the brass didn't, this deal was a fantastic move for the franchise. By grabbing the 18th overall pick, the Rockets made it possible to draft one of the second-tier center in the draft class. After all, the aging combination of Marcus Camby and Samuel Dalembert wasn't going to get it done five years down the road.
Despite not executing and drafting a center, as they drafted power forward Terrence Jones at the slot, the franchise made the correct move.
Trade with Milwaukee Bucks (June 27, 2012)
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A few days later, the Houston Rockets traded their lone established center under contract, along with the 14th overall pick, to the Milwaukee Bucks for the 12th overall pick, Jon Leuer, Jon Brockman and Shaun Livingston.
To increase their chances of landing the new face of their franchise, the franchise orchestrated the aforementioned deal to gather more attractive pieces.
Despite making the team even more in contention for a household name player, the brass also made a glaring hole at the center position more daunting.
Houston Rockets Rookies
The Houston Rockets had an interesting draft, to say the least, but the team did gain three players capable of developing into valuable rotation players.
Jeremy Lamb (the 12th overall selection), Royce White (15th) and Terrence Jones (18th) all possess nice potential, but may not be able to log major minutes this season.
The Rockets are one of the deepest teams in the Association and, unfortunately for these rookie swingmen, they specialize in the forward position.
Houston also has Donatas Motiejunas, who was selected 20th in the 2011 NBA draft, coming from overseas to make his debut in the league. The 7'0" forward has drawn comparisons with Lakers' forward Pau Gasol and probably would have been drafted earlier if he would have immediately played in the USA.
Nevertheless, the Rockets have a solid quadrumvirate of first-year players this year.
The Rockets Agree on a Contract with Omer Asik (July 1, 2012)
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Omer Asik has solid potential for a backup big man, but Houston must believe that he will develop into a quality starting center.
The Rockets signed the former Chicago Bull to a backloaded three-year, $25.1 million contract. Year 3 of Asik's deal is reportedly worth $15 million. Yikes.
Plus if Motiejunas excels in his rookie season, Asik may be forced to ride the pine.
This contract could have drastic consequences for the Houston Rockets.
Houston Rockets Lose Goran Dragic (July 5, 2012)
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This was shocking news for the city of Houston, as Dragic filled the starting role admirably after Kyle Lowry was forced to the sideline.
In the 28 games he started, the 6'3" guard averaged 18.0 PPG and 8.4 APG.
Losing Dragic opened up a major hole at the backup point guard slot that Houston must figure out if they want to vie for a postseason slot.
In other guard news, the Rockets will most likely watch Courtney Lee sign with another team this offseason after withdrawing their qualifying offer.
Trade with Toronto Raptors (July 5, 2012)
The Raptors acquired the disgruntled star, who publicly acknowledged his unwillingness to play for Houston coach Kevin McHale, for forward Gary Forbes and a future first-round pick.
This, in turn, left Houston facilitator-less, as the team also failed to add guard Steve Nash via free agency.
Rockets Agree on Contract with Jeremy Lin (July 5, 2012)
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In classic Rockets fashion, Houston unexpected agreed with Jeremy Lin on a four-year, $31 million deal with a team option on the fourth and final year.
The franchise would later boost the offer to a three-year, $25 million contract (per NBA.com's David Aldridge), with the final season now nearly $15 million.
The Rockets have always possessed a strong Asian community since the days of Yao Ming and signing Lin will assuredly retain this portion of their fan base.
From a financial standpoint, Lin was a great addition as he will definitely help ticket sales. But from a winning and cap-preserving standpoint, this contract hurts the team horribly.
Essentially, the organization could have $30 million invested in Lin and Omer Asik, who both could be coming off the bench, during the 2014-15 season.
Of course, the Knicks may still match the offer, but, due to already obtaining point guards Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, the team will probably stay clear of this absurd offer.
Marcus Camby to the New York Knicks (July 9, 2012)
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The Houston Rockets completed a sign-and-trade deal surrounding Marcus Camby with the New York Knicks, adding Toney Douglas, Josh Harrellson, Jerome Jordan and second-round picks in 2014 and 2015. The Knicks also sent the Rockets $2 million.
All three players the Knicks added are young and have the potential to contribute off the bench in the future. Douglas may be inserted into a major role right off the bat.
Houston absolutely won this deal, as the team gained numerous promising prospects in exchange for a veteran on his way out of the league.
Houston Rockets Amnesty Luis Scola (July 12, 2012)
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Utilizing the amnesty clause on Luis Scola truly showed the Houston Rockets are all-in on the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. After all, why would they cut the most consistent force on their roster?
Amnestying Scola preserves cap space that can be used to take back even more bad contracts the Orlando Magic currently possess.
Scola would later be awarded to the Phoenix Suns.
Dwight Howard Sweepstakes
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The Houston Rockets are making a strong push for the services of Dwight Howard, but to no avail.
Despite completing numerous trades to make an offer more enticing, the Rockets have yet to be considered the clear frontrunners.
This could be, in part, due to the fact that Dwight Howard is unwilling to sign an extension with the organization.
The Rockets have already been included in three-team scenarios, with the Los Angeles Lakers being the other squad, but those talks never came to fruition. Currently, the team is pursuing two-team trades as well with Kevin Martin and a multitude of picks and prospects included in the deal.
Nothing is imminent, though.